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TDF’11 St.5: A Wild, Unforgettable Day
Crashes, crashes, crashes – it was the theme of the day. The giant ogre of melee caused panic in the field and in so doing, allowed the ogre to wreak even more havoc. At the end of the day, those that made it through unscathed were blessed, and those with but cuts and bruises – fortunate. In the end, however, there was a bunch sprint, and wow, it was a memorable one.

Winds were expected to play a huge part in the day. In the end, however, it was more the threat of the wind that left riders sprawling along the largely coastal run from Carhaix to Cap Frehel. The distance was a rather short 158 kilometers, but with the havoc experienced the road, it’s certain that many would have preferred a 20 kilometer day lined with air barriers on a road of styrofoam.

The victims were numerous and seemingly added up on a continual basis: Chris Horner, Levi Leipheimer, Robert Gesink, Alberto Contador…the list goes on and on and on.

Three names highlight the victims though:

Janez Brajkovic crashed and bid adieu to the 2011 Tour de France from an ambulance. Tom Boonen hit the ground hard and spent the next 60 kilometers grimacing and barely holding on to his bars – an apparent victim of a broken collarbone.

Crashes were an unfortunate part of the day.

The most spectacular crash, without question, was from Danish National Champion, Nicki Sorensen though. The Saxo Bank rider tangled with an aggressive motorbike driver and ended up watching his bike get dragged away, still attached to the motorbike, while he did a slip and slide down a grassy embankment. Surprisingly, Sorensen escaped more or less unscathed, but wow, what a crash.

There was actually a race though. Let’s take a look back.

Jose Gutierrez (Movistar), Tristan Valentin (Cofidis), Sebastien Turgot (Europcar), and Antony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun) drifted away early on and there they stayed for many kilometers. The crashes in the bunch ensured that the break never got too big of a gap, and later on, the continual pressure from within the peloton and the pure panic caused by crash after crash ensured an early demise of the break.

Robert Gesink didn’t look too good following his tumble.

No worry – it wouldn’t be long before a much more inspiring move went clear.

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Jeremy Roy (FdJ) put in a classic late race move to do their best to upset the apparent bunch sprint. Voeckler, renowned as one of the most aggressive riders in all of cycling, paired up with the Tour de France’s current Most Aggressive Rider, Roy, to cause a stir in the field. The duo quickly built up a one minute plus margin, but unfortunately they couldn’t hold off the wave of wattage from behind. Inside five kilometers to go, their efforts were put to pasture and a bunch sprint was affirmatively on the menu.

Boonen eventually finished the day, but there’s a big question mark as to whether he’ll start tomorrow.

As an aside – if you weren’t rooting for those two riders today, I just don’t have words. The two Frenchmen put forth an incredible effort and let all viewers in on their suffering. It was a painful a glimpse into the depths of absolute awful pain. I don’t like to feel that suffering too often, but it’s impossible not to respect riders willing to go to such lengths for glory. Beautiful.

Oh wait, scratch that, there goes Voeckler. He just went again. The man is a monster who does not know the meaning of OVER. 2.5k and Voeckler has a few meters – tongue out, legs churning, face grimacing, but alas, the never say die former French champion was finally finished off with just over a kilometer to go. Note what I wrote above – I wrote this as the race happened – the break looked like it was done at around 5k to go. Unbelievable.


So, with the breakaway taken care of – the sprinters and their respective teams came to the fore.

Tony Martin puts in a huge turn at the front – and there he goes! Matt Goss sits up behind Martin, the gap opens – can Martin do it? Nope. Edvald Boasson Hagen bridges the small gap, counters, gets a big gap, and now he’s tossed his hat in the ring for the win. Nope, scratch that too – here comes Feillu! Crazy. Who’s next?

Cavendish celebrates.

Thor Hushovd! The yellow jersey comes up on the two and wait for it, wait for it, Hushovd opens up the sprint, but is it too early? Yep. Here comes Gilbert over the top of Hushovd with a clear gap, but then, from seemingly nowhere, Cavendish rages by the Belgian National Champion and lifts his arms heavenward. Where’d he come from?

The faces from the day’s top two – Cavendish and Gilbert – were absolutely twisted in abject pain. Cavendish came from WAY back to make up heaps of bike lengths on Philippe Gilbert, who seemed to have the win locked down.

Cavendish recovers.

A spectacular, safe, thrilling finish. This year’s Tour de France keeps serving of drama, and we keep devouring every morsel.

Looking forward to tomorrow.

Stage 5 Results
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad
2. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
3. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
4. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
5. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling
6. Andrй Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
7. Sйbastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8. William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ
9. Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
10. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo

General Classification After Five Stages
1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01
3. Frдnk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:00:04
4. David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:00:08
5. Andreas Klцden (Ger) Team RadioShack 0:00:10
6. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling
7. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:12
8. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
9. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek


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